Social media CAN get you a job … or, I hired a blog reader

Here’s a story I’ve been wanting to tell for a while — and it has a moral too, about how social media can help you get a job!

First, lest I send anyone in the wrong direction, let’s be clear on some of the ways that social media probably won’t get you a job:

  • Creating a Twitter account and waiting for prospective employers to approach you
  • Randomly sending your resume to hiring managers on LinkedIn
  • Creating an online video resume (for the love of god, please don’t)

But here’s how social media really could help you get a job:

  • Being a smart, thoughtful commenter on blogs in your field
  • Possibly creating an awesome blog of your own and making sure people know about it
  • Not neglecting the traditional pieces of a job search — writing a great cover letter, doing a strong interview, etc.

Now, here’s the story. Last month, while screening candidates for a job I was hiring for, I received a cover letter that easily stood out as the best I’d received for that position so far. And at the bottom of it was a name I recognized as a frequent commenter here.

We talked. The fit wasn’t quite right for that particular role, but I told her about another opening that was about to become available. We talked some more. And today was her first day in that job.

So, what went right here?

For starters, she was legitimately a strong candidate. No good employer is going to hire you on the basis of your social media presence if you’re not also a strong candidate offline too. So obviously, first and foremost she was qualified — but so were lots of other people applying for that same position.

Next, because of the connection she’d built with me through her comments here and some emails we’d exchanged as a result, I already knew her to be smart, thoughtful, curious, and driven. All good things that immediately moved her to the front of the pack. Not that other candidates couldn’t have been those things too, but through those things she’d done before we were ever talking about employment, she’d made herself something of a known quantity, in a way that’s a huge benefit when you’re applying for a job.

(Being a known quantity matters because when a hiring manager knows from direct experience that you’re reliable, competent, sane, etc., they’ll almost always prefer you over a similarly qualified candidate who is a stranger. That’s because you can never get to know someone as well in interviews as you can in other contexts; the candidate who interviews well can end up being flaky, disorganized, difficult to work with, and all sorts of other problematic things that someone can hide during the hiring process. But if you’ve been interacting with someone for a while, outside of the hiring process, you can be more confident about who you’re really hiring.)

Third, her blog provided further illustration of the fact that she was smart, a good writer, intellectually curious, and so forth. Having months’ worth of smart blog posts to look at can be pretty revealing when you want to get a better sense of someone.

And fourth, she didn’t rest on “knowing” me through the Internet. She put a ton of effort into writing a compelling cover letter and presenting herself as a highly qualified, engaging, and driven candidate.

So there’s our moral: No matter what industry you’re in, there almost surely are dozens of blogs and websites where people with an interest in your field gather to share information and ideas. Take part in the conversation there. (And maybe don’t be anonymous; you don’t need to use your real name, but it’ll help to have a regular handle you use rather than posting as Anonymous, so that people are able to connect your comments as all coming from one particular person.)

If you’re smart and thoughtful in your comments, you’ll build credibility as someone with an interest in and passion for the topic. At a minimum, you’ll probably connect with additional people who you can call on when you’re seeking professional advice. And it turns out, you might get a job offer out of it some day.

{ 32 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S

    As a complete side note to your post, you mentioned that the candidate had written a fantastic cover letter. If you and the candidate are willing, might you post it for the benefit of all to learn? (By all means, strip out the identifying bits.)

    You have offered a great deal of advice in a great many posts–all of it valuable–but have not posted an actual positive example of a real life, honest-to-goodness, makes-the-candidate stand out cover letter.

    On the other hand, releasing such a thing into the wild might make it *that* much more difficult to tell the real thing from imitations in the future…

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’ll leave this up to her. I do have one sample published (at the link in the post) but hers is way better.

      Speaking of imitations vs the real thing: THREE TIMES now I’ve had someone use the sample cover letter from my site when applying for a job with me. This is not a good idea.

      1. Josh S.

        I’d laugh at the imitations, if it weren’t so horrific. Clearly falls in the “You MUST be kidding me” category.

  2. m a d

    Something to consider as well is the possibility that one would be rejected for a position for nonconstructive posts. I interviewed for a position at a company that has public forums for discussion and I made a few posts that might be construed as inflammatory despite my playful tone. This ultimately led to that company passing me up as a candidate for the job.

  3. Jamie

    This awesome – and it just goes to show how interactions with people can pay off down the road in ways you can’t foresee.

    It is also a good reminder to be aware of one’s lingering web presence. I post over at BNet fairly often and use my real name for my user name. Since those posts come up in a google search I make sure there’s nothing over there I wouldn’t want my employer (or a future employer) to read.

    It’s funny – there’s someone who comments regularly on this blog that I have thought might be great if we ever had an opening in personnel…and while I’ve never met her if we are ever looking to fill a position in HR I would so be looking for someone like her – with her point of view and approach to her employees. A Kimberly Steins type, if you will.

      1. Anonymous

        I’ve noticed her name recently.

        But, let’s look at the future now…as an employee can she still comment? Reason I ask is, what happens if she were to comment on a blogpost of yours and totally disagree with you? Does that offset the working relationship you now have? I’m not saying anything against Kimberlee at all, but at the same time, it’s something to keep in mind when others might end up in a similar situation.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          She’s actually disagreed with me plenty in the past, and she’s welcome to continue doing that :)

          I would say that reasonable people can disagree with each other and as long as they’re civil about it, no good manager is going to have a problem with that (and would hopefully even appreciate it, because independent thought is good).

          (Of course, in this case, I’m not managing her anyway — I hired her for a client whose search I was managing — but this would be my answer if I were.)

  4. Emily

    If AskAManager had a “like” button, I would click it for this! (Oh, dear, social media conditioning . . . )

  5. Suz

    There is a downside to this, though happily not for Kimberlee. I myself have found more people that I would not hire than those that I would. It actually made me sad that I started reading the comments, but it was educational.

    Congratulations on your new position Kimberlee!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think with hiring in general, the vast majority of applicants aren’t going to be your rock star. You’re sifting through looking for the small number who could be.

      (That said, I’m continually impressed by the number of smart, thoughtful people who comment here. It strikes me as relatively unusual for the Internet.)

  6. Kimberlee

    *Giddiness*

    First, thank you all for your kind comments! It was really nice to come here and not see anyone say “You hired HER?! She wouldn’t even wear pantyhose to her interview!” I’m really liking my new position, and I think (so far anyway) it is a good fit!

    Second, someone requested a copy of the cover letter. I’ll be happy to provide it in the guise of shilling for my blog: http://businessforgoodnotevil.blogspot.com/2010/12/how-to-write-good-cover-letter-even-if.html
    I wrote a post (with Alison’s permission) that not only has the cover letter, but the job posting for which it was written, as well as some tips on applying for jobs that you might be less-than-fully qualified for. I hope you enjoy it!

    And finally, I agree that an inordinate amount of smart and reflective people comment on this blog. Alison should probably start dumbing it down ;)

    1. Anonymous

      Thanks for the link! Your enthusiasm really stood out in the cover letter. I might have to take a page out of your book for future reference.

  7. Nate

    I think this goes to show that being a regular contributor to a frequented forum can be productive and beneficial. Alison, I think the reason why you get such smart and thoughtful people to comment here is that people who come here, after reading some posts, know what to expect.

    In a forum where the focus is a bit more fuzzy or generic, the visitors can take all shapes (including many undesirable ones).

    1. Jamie

      I agree – the general tone of the comments tends to discourage feeding the trolls…so those who are looking for misspelled conflict for the sake of conflict tend to move on to more hospitable forums.

      I think it’s great that those who comment here get that respectful doesn’t have to be synonymous with lock-step agreement on all points. Many times I’ve come away from reading here with a new way of looking at something – which has really been helpful.

      It’s nice to be able to discuss workplace issues with an openness that is inherently impossible with most co-workers…which is always more difficult since it’s filtered through the lens of office politics and CYA.

  8. Jamie Lynn

    I am a good friend of Kim’s over here in Portland, OR where she just moved from. We met and became friends in college where we competed on the school’s debate team and graduated from the same program with a degree in Political Economy. I just wanted to chime in and say that if anyone deserves to get a life changing job offer and an article written about her, it’s KIM hands down! I have worked with her on many projects both casual and professional, and have always looked up to her for her strong drive and intellectual achievements. Kim has taught me a lot about myself and the world, engaging me in numerous educational discussions, and has always supported me and encouraged me in everything I take on.

    I am so proud of you Kim! I am going to miss you now that you are over on the east coast, but I wouldn’t dream of asking you to stay when such great opportunities await you.

    I love you girl!

  9. gadget

    Hi all! I too wanted to chime in, but Jamie Lynn already did that, so I’ll pop in instead to say largely the same thing, but from “the older sister’s” perspective: Goes without saying that I’m proud of her, and that somehow it doesn’t surprise me that this happened to her :) She’s been working hard at her blog (and promoting it), she’s scary smart (seriously – growing up she once had our little sister convinced that it was illegal to “horde money” and that her saving her allowance constituted said hording…Kim was 5 or 6), and I’ve never seen her go into anything without enough passion to see her through it.

    I heart her – thank you Alison, you won’t be disappointed (nor will her direct employers) :)

    On the other hand…you’ve taken her even farther from me! Le sigh. :)

    Oh! I had also wanted to mention that if the comments here are any indication of those on other blogs, “Ask a Manager” is incredibly lucky…you guys are thoughtful, write well, and write things with some substance to them. Alison, you’re doing -something- right if this is the crowd you’re cultivating ;)

    I think I’m going to have to add this blog to my “Check This Daily” folder :) I’m also certainly sharing this particular blog on Teh Facebook. And Reddit if I can find a good place for it. And snipping it for my scrapbook (all right, I don’t have one of those, though I will print a copy for our mom).

  10. Susan Ireland

    Alison,
    I’m so glad you posted this. What a great story!

    I hope you’ll do a post someday on your comment:
    – Creating an online video resume (for the love of god, please don’t)

    I’ve never recommended video resumes to my readers, but I’m interested to know why YOU think it’s a bad idea.
    Susan

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Thank you for asking and giving me the opportunity to rant!

      My basic take is that most hiring managers are spending mere seconds on a resume before making a decision about whether to put the candidate in their yes, no, or maybe pile. They don’t want to watch or listen to a whole pitch; they want to scan the parts of the resume that they want to scan, and they want to do it quickly. Video removes that ability.

      I’ve also never seen it done in a way that didn’t strike me as … well, really cheesy. I’m skeptical that they can overcome that.

  11. GoOctopus

    Social media gives you a job, no, it’s the candidate herself the hiring process herself. we should never rely on some tools when job searching, you need to “put a ton of effort” to get you a job. But if your industry is too narrow such as FEA analysis and you’ll find social media is not so powerful to give you opportunities to contact with your potential hiring manager.

  12. Jess Wilson

    Alison,

    This is a great way to emphasize how people, especially young people, should use blogs and other social networking platforms to their advantage. The suggestions in your post are useful particularly in this economy where every effort counts for prospective employees. Great article!

    -Jess

  13. Pingback: True story: how social media can land you a job | Allison Jones

  14. Richard

    It’s almost a shame that I’m in the UK now, rewriting my CV for post-graduate employment, and I’m unlikely to ever meet Allison in person: I still remember you commenting that you were surprised that I wasn’t a manager based on some of my comments, it made my day!

    It just goes to show that actually ensuring that you take the time to write constructively, no matter the medium, has the potential to pay off. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog comment, an official email, or simple IM chat between yourself and your coworkers: People take note of how you portray yourself, and that can pay you back in the future when something comes up that you may be interested in!

    Congrats to you Kimberlee! Yours is one of the few blogs on here that I actually subscribe to and read in my spare time. Judging by you and Allison, it sounds like you’re going to enjoy working there!

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